Researchers thought they found a giant, extinct shark. Here’s what they really picked up.

By | 07/09/2022

In the new action movie
The Million, Jason Statham battles an 18-meter-long megalodon, a creature of a shark that lived 20 million years ago. The movie posits that a few members of the species are notwithstanding live, free to terrorize cargo ships, beachgoers, and even tiny dogs off the coast of China.

If you’re not expecting a lot of scientific accuracy from a movie like this, you won’t be disappointed. But, after a screening,
sat down with Hans Sues, curator of vertebrate paleobiology at the Smithsonian Institution’due south National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., and an skilful on all creatures prehistoric, to encounter whether the moving-picture show got annihilation right. Sues has assisted in the discovery of several new species of dinosaurs and even has i named after him—the dome-skulled pachycephalosaur
Hanssuesia sternbergi. He’s now supervising the building of a 15-meter megalodon model for a new space in the museum, which is undergoing renovations.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Q: Did you enjoy
The Meg?

Admittedly. Very entertaining. I’m a sci-fi nut, and a big fan of anything with Jason Statham in information technology. I would give it a ix out of 10.

Q: What kind of rating would yous give it for scientific accuracy?

Probably a one out of 10. Maybe two out of 10 if I’m feeling generous.

Q: Permit’s showtime with the cardinal premise. Is there whatever style megalodons could have avoided extinction and lived hidden at the lesser of the ocean?

No style. That was exist admittedly impossible and goes against everything we know about megalodons based on the fossil record. For starters, megalodons were found effectually the earth, but just in warm coastal waters. They just aren’t adapted for deep sea living. The water is besides cold, food would be also scarce, and megalodons would need to alter their whole body shape to avoid existence squashed by the enormous water pressure level downward there. Even if they were nonetheless effectually, it’s inconceivable that humans wouldn’t know about it. We’ve mapped the ocean flooring and accept such avant-garde sensing technology. We would know if they were at that place.

Q: What about the movie’due south conceit that there’due south a whole warm ecosystem trapped under a cloud of hydrogen—the thermocline, as they phone call information technology?

I don’t call back in that location’s any evidence that such a matter would exist. And plus, it would be lethal to anything that would get through it. Because a cloud of hydrogen sulfide, specially in dissolved form, would exist a terrible thing to go through. I call up fifty-fifty a big shark like that couldn’t practise that without harm to its physiology.

Q: What did
The Million
get correct?

They got the jaws and teeth right. A megalodon mouth is and so big that you could swim into it without touching whatsoever of the teeth. It literally could swallow a small car without having to chomp down on it. And the teeth would exist almost 7 inches or 17 centimeters tall, and it would accept several rows in its mouth at once, and then equally it lost or bankrupt teeth, it could easily replace them.

Q: What almost the residue of the shark’south body?

What they used in the flick was a scaled-up swell white shark. That’due south why its body had and so much girth. The megalodons were a piffling bit sleeker. The latest enquiry suggests that they’re most closely related to the living mako sharks, which are more than streamlined, sleeker animals. And they exaggerated the megalodon’south size. It was a big creature, about 18 meters long, simply the i they had looked to be 23 meters or more than, and nosotros have no evidence they ever got that large.

Hans Sues

Hans Sues, curator of vertebrate paleobiology at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History (and admitted Jason Statham aficionado)

Elizabeth Sues

Q: What about the beliefs? They had it ramming into ships and underwater subs, is that accurate?

That’s a plausible behavior. They might have bumped into casualty to stun them or take a niggling test nibble. There’s a specimen of a small baleen whale that was probably hit past a million, with unbelievable damage to the skull. There’s likewise a fossilized whale vertebra from the Chesapeake Bay with this weird pinch fracture, which basically could but have happened if something took the whale and nearly snapped its backbone.

Q: In the picture show, “the meg” could seize with teeth a ship in half, would that be possible?

Yes. Paleontologists have done some sort of biomechanical modeling based on teeth we’ve found, and they calculated the bite force would exist about 40,000 pounds per foursquare inch, which is past far the highest bite force ever calculated for any animal, living or extinct. Even the [Tyrannosaurus king] bite would exist puny by comparing.

Q: If humans and megs were around at the aforementioned time, would it try to eat u.s., like in the moving picture?

It probably wouldn’t go subsequently one or two humans swimming. It would run into them equally too pocket-sized to be a expert meal. Simply a whole beach total of swimmers, it might merely swim through and scoop up several humans without even chewing, as it does in the movie.

Q: One of the characters says “the meg” has no natural predators. Is that accurate?

Maybe not in the primeval days. But by the time that megalodon had reached its maximum distribution around nine million years ago, there were a couple of really huge other ocean predators effectually. At that place was an extinct relative of today’s sperm whales chosen
Livyatan, like the biblical monster.
had a skull of about 3 meters in length and teeth up to 30 centimeters. They’re really the largest teeth of any animal extinct or living. Nosotros remember that that animal was comparable in length and girth, and it would have given a megalodon a run for its money. And and so afterwards on you had other sharks and killer whales. A pod of killer whales could probably take down a megalodon because they’re extremely sophisticated hunters.

Q: Of the sharks we take now, are there any believed to be descended directly from the megalodon?

No. The closest relative to them are the mako sharks. And so more than distantly the neat white shark. For a long fourth dimension, people thought that the great white was actually a miniaturized version of the megalodon, only that’s not mostly held anymore.

Q: When movies similar this portray sharks equally monsters, exercise you lot think there’s any danger to real sharks?

Yeah, I think that’south something yous demand to be careful with. I’g sure
probably gave a lot of people second thoughts most going for a swim in the Atlantic. I call up this film might take a similar upshot. Sharks are very lethal predators, to exist sure, but they don’t go after individual humans. As shark biologists would tell you, humans are much more dangerous to sharks than vice versa.

Q: Practise films similar
The 1000000
Jurassic Park
generate more than interest in the work y’all do?

I’m sure that this movie will capture the attending of some impressionable youngster and either lead the youngster to marine biology or to paleontology. I do a lot of work on dinosaurs and I never lose my fascination with these kinds of animals. There are just and so many interesting biological questions. How does a animate being similar that make a living? How does it collaborate with its environs? You meet this superpredator, you lot think: “Jeez, what could stop this thing?”

Q: If yous were in the movie, how would you have reacted?

I probably would accept wanted to have kept the shark alive for a piffling while, despite all of the unpleasantness the shark was creating. We all have our ideas on how these animals lived, and what they did, and what their color looked like. And to run into something in existent life would test all these hypotheses. Information technology would certainly have your jiff away, like Sam Neill’southward character getting emotional when he starting time sees the dinosaurs in
Jurassic Park.